Nearly 300 unborn children conceived between 2013 and 2015 never got a chance at life outside the womb because the city of Flint, Michigan, decided to cut costs by switching to the poisonous waters of the Flint River for its public water supply.
A recently published research paper on the devastating effects of the Flint water crisis shows that lead in the Flint public water supply directly resulted in a "horrifyingly large" increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages, because the least healthy fetuses were disproportionately affected by the lead.
The tragic loss of life
- Flint suffered from a 58 percent increase in fetal deaths relative to other areas.
- Between 198 and 276 more children would have been born had Flint not enacted the switch in water.
- These numbers could be underreported, because the study authors excluded abortions and miscarriages that occurred before 20 weeks, and because they're limited to hospitals reporting the events.
- The proportion of Flint children with high levels of lead in their blood doubled after the water change.
How does the lead impact surviving children?
Lead levels in Flint's water were sometimes dozens or hundreds of times higher than the safety threshold. Lead exposure in children can cause:
- Cognitive deficiencies
- Antisocial behavior
- Lower educational attainment
- Brain, kidney and liver problems
How is Flint doing now?
The process of correcting the damage done in 2014 and 2015 will take years. At the end of 2016, many homes in Flint still had higher lead content in their water than surrounding areas. Census data shows that Flint is the poorest city in the nation, so recovery will be an uphill battle for this community.